Design and development of touristic products Main author: Gábor Michalkó Szilvia Boros, János Csapó, Éva Happ, Pál Horváth, Anikó Husz, Mónika Jónás-Beri, Katalin Lőrinc, Andrea Máté, Gábor Michalkó, Erzsébet Printz-Markó, Krisztina Priszinger, Tamara

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Main features of congress tourism:

-          foreseeable and can be organized in advance,

-          high participation fees and expenditures of the participants,

-          in addition to congress programmes in the narrower sense, the participants use other tourism programmes as well,

-          spending of accompanying persons arriving with conference participants ensure additional revenue,

-          high number of participants of large congresses cause spasmodic bookings in hotels,

-          usually pre-programmes in the days before and post-programmes in the days after the congress are organized for the participants and their accompanying persons

-          it largely contributes to the aims of the place and the national tourism propaganda.

The international conference market can be segmented in different ways. We can differentiate based on the size of the sessions, on the number of participants, on the particularities of their consumer behaviour, on the topic of the conference and based on further, different features and criteria.

However, the most important criterion of segmentation is the initiator, the client who decides which type of session is required and which services are demanded. In the case of client-based distinction, the international conference market can be divided into two main segments: the market of corporate and association meetings.

The latter includes the summits of international intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental (social, non-profit) organizations, associations (Figure 1).

Figure 1    Types of international meetings

Source: based on ICCA, 2008 constructed by: Happ, 2010  

The group of organization meetings covers various types of events: medical conferences (the largest segment), scientific meetings, other sessions on trade, economics and social topics. Considerable differences can exist between and within the groups regarding the size, budget, duration and complexity of the conferences.  

The group of company meetings is in fact a collective notion: it can be interpreted as regular or occasional sessions of companies with domestic or international network.  

The internalization of scientific life, the need for communication and curiosity in results of others support conference tourism in becoming one of the fastest developing parts of tourism.

The two largest organizations that collect data and prepares studies is UIA and ICCA. The two organizations set different criteria of data collection. ICCA considers international conferences that are organized regularly, with at least 50 participants from three nations.

In the statistic of UIA we find conferences with at least 300 participants, held for at least three days and where 40% of participants arrive from at least five different countries.

International conferences can be characterised by the following data:

-   Number of international organizations: there are at least 6000 organizations registered which organize international conferences. Nearly 60% of these have headquarters in Europe.

-   Number of international conferences: though the economic crisis hindered the organization of conferences in 2008, based on the preliminary data and statistics as well, the market started to increase again in 2009.

-   Geographic distribution: The favourite destination is Europe. More than 50% of conferences are organized here. However, the latest data suggest that also new, developing conference locations are starting to compete. Asian and Middle-Eastern countries permanently offer new supply elements which attract more and more conferences into the region. The improving positions of the Middle-East and Asia are unbroken since 2003; they increased their market share by 3.9% since then.

-   Average number of conference participants: A slight but steady decrease can be experienced in the average participant number per conference. While in 2000 an average of 832 people took part in an event, this number decreased to 638 by 2008.

-   Size of the conferences: in the last 10 years an interesting restructuring was observable in the size of conferences. While the share of large conferences with more than 5,000 participants is still around 1.5%, so there is no considerable change, less medium sized conferences (500–5000 people) were organized, and their share decreased by some 8%. Popularity of smaller conferences (up to 500 participants) increased. This can be explained by the size of available conference centres, the frequency of conference organization, and of course with cost savings as well. The majority of international conferences had 250–499 participants.

-   Average stay: the duration of conferences is decreasing year by year, the 4.4 days duration of 1999 was only 3.9 in 2008.

-   Timing of organization: the breakdown of meetings within a year is characterized by the popularity of the autumn months (September, October, November), and also the late spring months (May, June).

-   Frequency of organization: more than 55% of organizations hold international conferences yearly, 24% in every second year. There are organizations with smaller frequency, but 6% of them organize their conferences more than once a year.

-   Topic of the conferences: Most of the meetings are organized in medical topics (18.3%), followed by conferences in technological (14.2%) and scientific (13%) issues.

-   Location of the conference: Since 2005, the favourite conference locations are conference hotels that host the sessions of more than 41.5% of events. Also, conference centres are favoured, but the number of events organized here is decreasing year by year. The number of conferences organized at university venues has been steadily decreasing in the past years, 19.2% of events was organized this way in 2008.

-   Destination: based on the number of sessions organized, most of the conferences were hosted by the United States and Germany. Among the cities Vienna and Paris are ranking first. Besides the number of meetings, also the ranking based on the number of participants is worth analysing.

-   Average registration fee of international conferences: this sum was USD 547 in 2008. This was the highest value in the period since 1999. The average sum spent by a participant was USD 2487 per event.

-   In 2008 conference tourism received its highest revenue based on the statistical data by having 12 billion dollars of revenue.

The Hungarian Congress Office collects the data on conferences organized in Hungary. The office prepares the statistics and evaluation of conference tourism yearly.

4.4. Exhibitions

Exhibition is an event at a given place and time, usually organized repeatedly, where large number of exhibitors introduce the supply of one or more branches, or, to support selling, offer information about it to retailers, big costumers and end users.

The definitions of fair and exhibition are often used as synonyms, mixed up, and their meaning is intervened (Table 5).

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